Senior Care Burdens Grow Heavier for Families

The toll of caregiving can sometimes be more than one can handle, findings from Genworth’s recent “Beyond Dollars” study show. Senior living providers can offer an alternative that may be increasingly attractive to family caregivers, who are experiencing greater burdens and may be seeing their careers and income suffer, the findings suggest.

Today’s caregivers are more likely to be younger family members, and 77% reported missing some work in the past year as a result of their caregiving responsibilities, according to the study. Ten percent reported losing a job.

While some families develop plans for long-term care well ahead of when a loved one will need it, most do not, and care often falls to other family members. If more families plan ahead with their loved ones, it could present an opportunity for senior housing, as more potential residents and their loved ones may seek out caregiving solutions beyond family members.

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“Although caregiving brings many rewards, it can also have very real negative consequences for families who haven’t planned ahead for the possibility of their loved ones needing long-term care,” Suly Salazar-Layton, director of Thought Leadership at Genworth’s U.S. Life Insurance Division, said of the study. “In fact, 50% of respondents said if they could do anything differently, it would be to do a better job of planning.”

Income, Careers Hurt

When family members shoulder the responsibility of long-term care (LTC), it can deeply burden them, even if they appreciate the opportunity to take care of a loved one:

43% of caregivers in the study said the LTC event negatively affected their personal health and well-being, while 44% said they experienced negative feelings such as depression. One-third said they felt an extremely high level of stress. More than half of respondents felt they were not qualified to provide physical care.

77% reported missing some work in the past year, a significant jump from 19% who said the same in 2010. On average, caregivers missed seven hours of work per week, an 19% reported missing 10 hours or more per week. Other studies have revealed that older family members who take on caregiving can lose a significant opportunity for more income.

-11% of respondents lost their jobs as a result of their caregiving responsibilites; 10% changed careers; and 12% change positions.

-Caregivers who provide some financial assistance for loved ones pay $10,000 annually, on average, in out-of-pocket expenses, and most have not planned for this cost. Since 2010, these expenses for caregivers have risen 20%. If these costs continue to grow, fewer caregivers may be willing or able to provide this support and could turn to assisted living, which has been more costly over the past few years.

Planning Benefits

While many caregivers reported their roles brought on a slew of new challenges that impacted their lives, the study found that most thought they’d be better off if they had done more planning early on.

“It’s not easy to admit when there is an issue, especially when it comes to matters of declining health, and it’s not always easy broaching the topic of long-term care with the people you love,” Salazar-Layton said. “But meeting the challenge with action—speaking with your loved ones and meeting with a financial professional—does make things easier in the long run for caregiver and care recipients.”

The study found that 53% of caregivers and 59% of care recipients said they would have done things differently, and 80% said taking action sooner would save up to $10,000.

As more baby boomers turn 65 every day and the swell of retirees grows ever larger, more people will need some form of long term care. With the high toll of caregiving, families may be more likely to turn to senior housing for better solutions as they consider their options. Already, personal financial planners are emerging as important advocates and referral sources for senior living communities.

Written by Amy Baxter

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